First-Timers Are Great for Dance Music
Fresh off a 10-day binge of summer nights spent under festival skies, I’ve been doing some thinking about “the scene” in general as we like to refer to it and this tendency that experienced ravers (is that what we even call ourselves anymore?) have to disparage the newbies. You can hear this type of characterization in a lot of different ways but it essentially comes down to this almost pathological need to sort of affirm one’s own quality as a fan through the demonization of the less experienced crowd. I’ll give you an example to kind of put this in context.
I was waiting alone at The Pool in my Spirit Hood to meet up with some friends before going to catch Eric Prydz’s set on the main stage at EDC and I saw a trio nearby who all had Spirit Hoods as well so I decided to say hi to kill some time. I asked them who they were most excited to see from the Day 2 lineup and they told me, emphatically, “Avicii!” I was kind of surprised by that answer, given the lineup, but I’m not really there to police peoples’ musical tastes either so I just acted interested. Then they asked me who I was most excited to see and I told them that it was definitely Eric Prydz and I asked if they were going to go see him since his set was starting in about 15 minutes and he was literally the artist right before Avicii on the main stage. I could see that look in their eyes that people get when they’re trying to decide whether they should pretend they know what you’re talking about so that they don’t look uninformed before they sort of stammered out that they “weren’t really planning on going” but they “might”.
A lot of people point to an example of kids like this and they say that this is where pop culture is ruining dance music culture and I totally understand the argument but I began to sort of examine my own reactions, as I do, and ask myself if I’m not perhaps just being a bit of an elitist. On the one hand, if you don’t know who Eric Prydz is, we’re probably not going to really connect on the same level but on the other hand I wouldn’t ever make the argument that I have more of a right to the festival than a first-timer who doesn’t know a lot of the artists and there’s a very important reason why.
We all have to start somewhere.
I’m pretty comfortable making the argument that certain artists require a bit more musical knowledge to enjoy than others (the sort of thing you might call ‘refinement’ if you want to put it in evaluative terms). We can draw a comparison between Avicii’s status as a pop icon, the easy-to-enjoy structure of peaks and drops throughout his set, and the sing-along EDM Top-40 content of the set itself and Eric Prydz’s status as a dance music legend, his technical seamlessness on the decks, and the long, patient set arcs that he builds and make a pretty straightforward argument that Eric Prydz is the more skilled artist but Avicii is a lot more accessible to newcomers. This isn’t an inherently bad thing for “the scene” at all. For whatever reason there’s this assumption that some of us have somehow gotten used to making that newbies who don’t know a lot about the music are the ones that are to blame for what people see as the dying positive atmosphere in the crowd and I’m ready to say for certain that that assumption is absolutely false.
I stood in crowds of thousands of people for two weekends in a row and I saw plenty of first-timers with genuine smiles on their faces dancing just as hard as I was and spinning ‘round in the shuffle circles right by my side. Anyone who brings a good attitude and energy to a festival has every right to be there regardless of who they came to see. What “the scene” needs, really, are people who are passionate about music (any music) and want to share that passion with others and you can see that spark in veteran ravers as well as in brand new first timers. What “the scene” does not need is a community of experienced ravers who talk about being welcoming to others but simultaneously judge and malign people for being new.
So what actually happened to the PLUR then? Well what I think happened is that a decade ago, we had a subculture that was bound together by music and by a shared status as existing on the fringes of society. Electronic music was not cool and so the kids who were “cool” didn’t want anything to do with it. Today, Electronic music is cool and so those who used to come together as outcasts have had their music usurped by the kids who used to ostracize them. What is being overlooked, in the process, is that the differences that really separated people in the past are no longer there and those of us who “get it” and have been around for a while should be welcoming in new people we see who actually have a passion for this music but couldn’t see it before they got exposed to it by popular media.
If I look back at what I was listening to 5 years ago, my musical tastes have definitely matured and so too will those of this new generation of ravers. Maybe this year, it was their first massive and they spent the whole time at the main stage to catch all their favorite radio acts but a year from now they will probably be very different. Think of how much more sophisticated someone’s musical tastes can become with introduction to more music over that span of time.
Ultimately, we are going to be able to find people with bad attitudes in any crowd regardless of how refined their taste for music is. I don’t look down on first-timers simply for being new. I might not be trying to hang out with them all night but I really enjoy seeing the look of wonder and unbridled joy on someone’s face as they discover for the first time what they’ve been missing all these years. I encourage them to go explore, have a good time, share their love for whatever it is that they love, and be good to each other.
What really keeps the PLUR alive above anything else is making sure that it lives on in you first. Don’t look at someone new and shun them for not being there before you, point them in the right direction and remember how wondrous it felt when everything was totally new to you at your first massive. I told them they should go check out Prydz’s set and that that would give them time to get a good spot in the crowd for Avicii as well. I, personally ran for the Cosmic Meadow with the last chord of Prydz’s set and the smoke from all the fireworks still hanging in the summer sky and the word “Allein” still on my smiling lips before Avicii even plugged his USB in but then again, I’m not really much of an Avicii fan, myself ;).
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